Sunday, February 24, 2008

After Barcelona, a school reunion and someone from the past.

Amanda (then Sharon) and me in Upper VI at St. Joseph's collge - 1975, our last year there.
Hi again

Life has been very quiet and back to normal after Barcelona. Last weekend we duly went out to dinner to celebrate St. Valentine’s. Of course, we went to our current favourite restaurant, La Vaca Argentina where we now nearly always ask “Amelia” for table number 16 or 18. Half of the meal was paid for with the loyalty card which is a very good programme. Last weekend we also purchased a colourful second hand Iraki carpet for about a fifth of its price which is now in pride of place in our main lounge.

This week has been busy with a big internal event I organised at work. I wasn’t sure what the turnout would be or the interest but judging by the numbers I should never have worried. I had lunch with my Swedish colleague Mikael and must have been very tired because when we left the restaurant I fell flat on my face!!!

The week was also full of media encounters; two visits to Intereconomía TV and a lunch with Javier Inaraja and Ana Pérez from Emprendedores and Quo. They are media friends from my previous job and it was superb to catch up with them again and chat in a relaxed way about the telecoms market.

This weekend has been quiet too except for some socialising. On Friday we went to dinner to Alberto and Olga’s new flat. Alberto was Eladio’s boss when they worked in the Ministry of Education a few years ago. You may remember a post entitled “Love is in the air” where I wrote about Alberto and Olga’s visit to our house last year when they had just fallen in love. Well they are still very much in love to judge by many details on Friday night, not lest the amount of times Alberto kissed Olga!!!

We also went out with Roberto and Maricarmen to La Vaca Argentina – ¿cómo no? It was a belated celebration of my birthday. Dinner with Roberto and Maricarmen is one of our favourite weekend pastimes. We are so much at home with them and always on a similar wavelength.

Eladio and Roberto

Maricarmen and me
When you hit 50 I think there is something that makes you want to revisit the past and seek out people from your youth. I think that because I can find no other explanation for my sudden interest in a school and University reunion. Before now these memories were in the back of my head only and now there seems a need to find some of the people in these memories that meant most to me.

When I was with Grainne in Barcelona recently she mentioned the St. Joseph’s Catholic College centenary year. I had already thought about a reunion with Helen King, Stephanie Mandzuik, Brenda Maher and Ellen Burns who all live in the Manchester area together with Amanda. So now I am considering a reunion around the centenary year. I have already visited the school site and seen there is a gala dinner on Friday 9th May. Come what may, Amanda and I will certainly go and she suggests we stay at the The Devonshire Arms which I think is a great idea. It is located at Bolton Abbey one of my favourite childhood haunts.

And talking about people from the past, I got an email from Andrew Dale right out of the blue. Andrew was a pupil at the famous Norwich Russian courses where my parents taught for many summers and where I learned many of the facts of life as I went every year from about the age of 12 to 20. I have many great memories of those courses. I myself never went to learn Russian. I just went along for the ride. It was a very international place and you met people from all over the world. In Andrew’s email he mentions Javier Solana, the ex Secretary General of Nato as having been on the course in 1973!! I specially remember the concerts my Aunty Masha put on at the end of the courses where I often played a leading part and sang. Oh, those were the days. Andrew’s email refreshed my memory but he very obviously remembers much more than me.
He reminded me that the last time we saw eachother was at Oxford railway station in 1978 where I had been to visit Amanda (then Sharon) which makes it 30 years since we last met! So you can imagine how surprised I was to receive his e-mail.

Andrew found me through my blog, would you believe. He is now married and lives in France and works in Geneva in the U.N. He has 4 children, the youngest called Olivia like my daughter. I trust we will be more in touch from now on.

And that’s all for the moment folks. Except that I have to say Happy 20th birthday to my niece Paula. ¡Felicidades mi niña”.

Next week will bring many professional encounters, some social ones too plus a big employee party organised by me which takes place on Wednesday.

Cheers for now


Saturday, February 23, 2008

On the TV yesterday

Looking very serious

Yesterday was quite special for me cos I appeared on a live TV chat show. The station was a digital one called "Intereconomía" and as the show was at 11.30 in the morning, I presume very few people saw it. It was however also broadcast on the radio at the same time, so who knows. The presenter was Luis Vicente Muñoz, an absolute darling of a journalist and a great professional.
Because it was Luisvi doing this, I immediately accepted the challenge. The programme which was the first of its kind brought in foreign professionials living in Spain to comment on the week's news. And there was plenty of news: Cuba, Kosova, the general election campaign in Spain, the proposal for a new tax for immigrants in the UK, etc. The guinea pigs for this first programme, apart from myself, were a lovely young Chinese girl called Lisa Wang who works for Inter China Consulting in Madrid and Francisco Berlin, a Mexican, who heads up the Association of Mexicans in Spain as well as an NGO for the integration of immigrants in Spain.

Picture taken by Eladio from the TV at home!
I don't know how well we did. You can judge that for yourself on the video (there was an error uploading!) All I know is that it was a great experience. You should be able to see it also here: Intereconomía TV (TV 22nd Feb 11.36)

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Barcelona and the Mobile World Congress


Last week was the Mobile World Congress (MWC), previously known as the 3GSM Congress. It is the biggest of its kind in the telecoms sector and people come from all over the world to attend. It used to be held in Cannes but nowadays it takes place in Barcelona. I heard from the taxi drivers there that this is the biggest conference of the year in Barcelona and that over 55.000 delegates attend. They also told me it’s the congress that moves the most amount of money! Well, it sure is big and it sure is noisy but I love going because I get to see so many familiar faces.

This year I took both girls with me for the ride. They were also going to work as “super promoters” at the Nokia party which is the biggest and most glamorous party at the MWC.

We travelled together and at check in I asked for a room with an extra bed. But, oh dear, we were told they didn’t have any. Luckily the bed turned out to be enormous. It was at least 2 metres wide and long so the 3 of us fitted in fine with plenty of room in between. The worst thing for me was the mattress. It was so hard I hardly got a wink of sleep the whole week. We stayed at the Hotel Eurostars Angli which is incredibly modern. The window took up one whole wall. I never got to fully understand how the lights worked or the remote controlled functions. The shower and bath needed an instruction manual which wasn’t there and one morning only boiling hot water seemed to come out of the tap. Great place but we are not going back, sorry.

The girls having breakfast in the room
The time in between professional activities was mostly dedicated to enjoying Barcelona’s culinary delights. In fact a lot of professional activities were too! I must thank my journalist friend Carmen Jané for all her recommendations which I followed religiously throughout the week.

So Sunday lunch had us eating at Agua, a great place in the Olympic port right by the beach. Julio and Paloma, my friends from Nokia Siemens Networks joined us for coffee and we captured the moment with a group photo on the beach itself. Paloma kindly offered to organise our registration passes and thus saved me from a 2 hour queue the next day at the Fira where the Congress was held.

On the beach in Barcelona
The evening was spent with my dear friend and ex school companion Grainne who lives in Badalona. I hadn’t seen her for at least 3 years and she’s always great company to be with. We went to her favourite steak place and then went back to her flat where we met her son Marcel who I hadn’t seen since he was 6 and he is now 23!!!

Masha and Grainne - Badalona, 40 years on!!!
The week was full of activity, one of the highlights being lunch with Carlos Prieto on Monday at Ca Pinxo. They have great sea food and the weather was good enough for us to eat outside. Carlos is an ex colleague from my Motorola days who now works for HP in Munich. He heads up sales for 3G integrated laptops in Europe. We reminisced a lot but specially about our cycling days with the Motorola Cycling Team. The names of Lance Armstrong and Hennie Kuiper came up, the latter very fondly too.

Carlos Prieto
Another highlight was coffee with dear Emilio Brambilla at the NSN hospitality suite at the Congress. Trying to find my friend Viivii was like playing hide and seek but we made it. I would loved to have seen more of my best friend Fátima who looked like she was going to have apoplexy at any moment with the stress of managing her customers’ registration passes. We did manage to get 5 minutes together at the NSN hospitality suite as you can see from the picture!

Fátima and me at the NSN hospitality suite
I took advantage of being in Barcelona to meet the Communications Director of the CMT (the Spanish telecoms market regulator). He works in the Mapfre tower which is a twin tower of the Hotel Arts. His office on the 29th floor has the most stunning views!!! We had lunch at another restaurant recommended by Carmen called Bestial and it really is “bestial”, meaning the best or the greatest in Spanish

We also managed to see dear friends Berk and Julia and went to L'Escola for dinner, this great catering training school restaurant. Berk who is Turkish I knew from Nokia. Nowadays he has a company which is supplying the likes of Zara and Bershka with textiles from Turkey and China. Wow Berk, I am impressed. Julia who is Austrian is a friend of the girls from their time in Finland and Spain on the N-Gage Tour. It was lovely to see the 2 of them again.

Dinner with Julia and Berk at L'Escola.
Midweek I treated the girls and myself to an hour long massage followed by a manicure at a great beauty salon called Augusta Natural on Vía Augusta near our hotel. This was a luxury but something much needed if I, at least, were to survive till Thursday.

Wednesday was my big day with 2 press conferences, one after the other in a Hotel in La Rambla. The first one was starting at 9 but we had to be there at 8 for preparations and the second one started at 12. I didn’t finish till around 15 when I went back exhausted to my hotel. Thankfully my business lunch that day was cancelled.

Wednesday night brought the celebration of the famous Nokia party. 3.500 people attended. I was told the tickets were worth more than 200 euros each, making the whole budget possibly over 700 million euros! That’s quite a lot for one night. As usual it was great. I was so excited to see so many familiar faces, old colleagues and friends that I never remembered to eat. I did remember to drink though and went a bit over the limit which I later regretted as I had a hang over during the night and in the morning!! I am getting too old for this.

My favourite Nokia boys (Dulanto, Pedro, Pepe Comas and Roberto) and me at the Nokia party. Great to see you!!
It was great to see: Agustin, JTB, Marianne, Peter Green, Roberto, Pepe Comas, Juan Dulanto, Pedro Molpeceres, Cristina Miranda, Michael Winkelmann, Philip Parfitt, Tuula Putkinen, Ben and a whole load of other people I hadn’t seen for ages.

The girls worked very hard that night with the Ramblas Digital team doing the interactive videos of the guests. I am anxiously awaiting mine.

That night and the next and final day of my stay in Barcelona – St. Valentine’s - I paid heavily for my sins of excess. My head was in a bad way. I was supposed to attend a conference at 14h but decided that enough was enough and it was time to go home. The girls’ flight was later in the evening. And you know the end of the story. Dear Eladio picked me up at the airport with a wonderful bunch of red roses.

End of story and a good time was had by all. See you next year Barcelona!


Friday, February 15, 2008

Red roses, a first for St. Valentines

Hi everyone,

Just a quickie to record the fact that I got red roses for St. Valentine's for the very first time in my life.

Eladio went to pick me up at the airport yesterday when I came back from Barcelona and when he opened the boot to put my luggage in, lo and behold there was a bunch of red roses. Yes, red roses, wow. I was so surprised and so pleased.

You can see how pleased I was by the big smile on my face in the photo which I just had to have taken to capture the historical moment.

Thanks darling Eladio.

Hope you all had a great St. Valentine's. I was too tired to celebrate last night, but we will make up for that this weekend.

Love to you all

Saturday, February 09, 2008

My birthday, Mallorca, meeting Mr. Cervera, a late cake and other things

The girls having coffee at Mallorca
Hi again my friends

This week has been very busy again; I seem to be working like a slave recently. But you know me, I generally enjoy my job and always appreciate a challenge. I have also been preparing for the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona next week which, of course, has added some of the pressure. Plus I had a PR crisis as some newspaper in Sweden decided to fabricate the news that my company was up for sale in Spain. The news spread like wild fire both in Sweden and in Spain and I had a heavy time trying to put the media straight with the added difficulty that TeliaSonera our majority shareholder was publishing its Q4 results the next day and we were in the middle of what’s called in PR a “silent period”.

I did manage some quality time with my family though, as you can appreciate from the picture of my stunning girls at a lunch this week at La Leyenda together. It’s a great moment to be a Mother now that they are in their early 20’s and still live at home. I’m dreading the moment they will leave but it has to come one day soon. Meanwhile family life couldn’t be better.

Friday was my birthday. Last year I celebrated my 50th, so this year wasn’t going to be anything out of the ordinary. However, birthdays in our house are very special and there have to be, at least, a present, a card, a meal together and, of course, a cake with candles.

I worked for a couple of hours on Friday then went into Madrid with the girls on some errands, namely giving in Susi’s project on “fluidization” at her University, La Complutense, visiting a shop called Vicente Rico to buy some hawaian outfit for a party at Copi’s tomorrow and finally getting some birthday food from our favourite delicatessen shop, Mallorca. You can see just how good it is from the photos here.

A close up of the sweet display at Mallorca

A view of the inside of Mallorca
As I am quite proud of Susi studying at La Complutense I wanted to take a picture of her outside the Chemistry Faculty where she had to give in her project. But she wouldn’t let me and obviously felt embarrassed that someone who knew her might see her. So, I ended up taking one of Oli in the car outside the Faculty!!

Oli in the car outside the Chemistry Faculty waiting for Susana
At Mallorca we bumped into an old boss of mine from my first job at Defex – how can I confess here that my first job was with a company that exported arms? – Alvaro Cervera was and is a charming red haired gentleman with a constant twinkle in his eye whose origins were in the Spanish Navy. He is still involved in the same industry and is probably still selling ships and airplanes to Saudi Arabia. Seeing him again was a bit of a visit to the past, at least, in my mind.

So lunch at home was all sorted out with the Mallorca food but the funny thing was that when it was time for one of the essential ingredients of the day, my birthday cake, Eladio suddenly realised he hadn’t gone to pick it up and, of course, the pastry shop was closed. There was no option but to have it one day late!

Yesterday afternoon took Eladio and I to an industrial estate in Valdemoro on the outer limits of the province of Madrid and pretty far from here. We went looking for a bargain priced giant wooden table and chairs we had seen on internet for the kitchen terrace. The place was full of stuff I suspected may well have come off a lorry to judge by the prices. We also picked up a great square patterned colourful shirt for Eladio costing 3 euros as well as a pair of designer jeans for 15 euros only.

My birthday ended with our usual walk and then dinner at La Vaca Argentina again.

Dinner together on my birthday
So, today, Saturday 9th, was when we had the cake with the candles, except that Eladio actually managed to lose the ones he had bought with the cake and we had to resort to a short used one. It didn’t matter because the cake, a Sacher torte, was delicious.

Eladio in the 3 euro shirt bringing in my "late" birthday cake with Susana
I would like to thank all my friends and relatives for the lovely text messages, e-mails, messages on Facebook and, of course, phone calls: Dolores, Juan, José Antonio, Miguel, Fátima, Ludy García, Ana Valdivieso, Blanca, Gustavo, Cristina, Ludy Blanco, Paloma, Cristina, Marta Acebo, Alicia my goddaughter, Yoli, Sumit, Anne and Keka. I really hope I haven’t forgot anyone. Someone special did forget me though and that was Julio Navío. We have spoken about the incident on the phone today and he knows he will have to do quite a lot to make up for it!!! Ha, ha, ha.

Ah, and I would also like to say Happy Birthday from here to Juan my nephew and Copi whose birthdays were also yesterday. Hope you had a great day!

Tomorrow Oli, Susi and I will be hitting off to have a great time in Barcelona together. More about that when we come back.

Cheers till then

Monday, February 04, 2008

All's quiet on the home front, Nancy Reagan hairstyle, we went shopping for string but ended up buying new clothes and other things.

Phoebe sleeping peacefully on her new blanket
Hi again

Well yes, on the home front things have been very quiet this week with hardly anything of real interest to tell you. On the work front I have had quite a difficult time from a PR perspective and have hardly lifted my head from my computer the whole week which has been quite exhausting mentally and even physically.

However there has been time for lunch with my agency PR Ketchum to thank them for the good job they are doing. We went to Aspen in La Moraleja which I highly recommend. Funnily enough one of their star dishes is a hamburger but the best one you will ever have! There has also been time to cut my hair (yes, and dye my ****** roots). This may not seem important but it is because this time I changed hairdressers because I’m not very pleased with my local one. My hairstyle, to quote my friend Julio, is like Nancy Reagan’s, in that it hasn’t been changed for the last 20 years and that’s how I want it to stay. So, to do so, this time I went to El Corte Inglés.

Ah, and yes, I bought some new clothes. You see I have now been on a diet for nearly a month and there has been some weight loss. It’s not a lot but enough to feel like buying new clothes. Actually buying clothes was not on the agenda. Eladio and I went on Saturday to buy some string to tie up the branches from the trees he has been pruning. When we were having a coffee in the shopping centre before going into Carrefour to get the string I spotted some very important words at my favourite clothes’ shop, Cortefiel. It said “Remate Final” which means the end of the sales. And, while he was buying the string, I went in. Funnily enough I ended up buying stuff from the new season and nothing from the sales. Buying new clothes always gives me a great lift in morale.

At the weekend we didn’t do much apart from domestic chores, reading, listening to music and going for our daily walk. We did, however, go out to dinner on Saturday and it was not to La Alpargatería but to La Vaca Argentina, one great place to have meat. We always go to the one in Las Rozas which is an all time favourite with us
I devoured one and a half books this weekend which I had ordered through not so long ago. They are about the Holocaust which is a subject that forever fascinates me. To read a survivor’s story is a privilege in history. There were so few of them and it is so important that their stories be told in order to give a lesson to humanity. It is terrible to think that very soon there will be no survivors left. If you are interested these are the books I am talking about:
Alicia, my story
I have lived a thousand years

On a happy note, Oli went to Cadiz with two of her friends this weekend to take part in the Carnavals which are quite famous there. They went dressed as cave men and women!!!

Poor Susi stayed behind because she still has exams. In Spain the most important exams of the year are in February. However she will be finishing tomorrow and on Sunday the 3 of us will be going to Barcelona. I’m going for the 3GSM Congress and they are coming along for the ride. We are going to have a great girly week in between work, of course. One of the highlights of our trip to Barcelona will be dinner with Grainne the night we arrive. But more about that when I return.

The final note of this week’s post is to say Happy Birthday to Laura and Alicia, my nieces. Ali is also my Goddaughter. Amazing to think they are now 24 and 17. Ali is the youngest of 13 grandchildren and to think that she is now a real “señorita” makes me realise just how fast time is passing. ¡Felicidades chicas!

Cheers till next week